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At Brain Awareness Day, Project NEURON Challenges Children’s Color Perception

June 24, 2010

Brain Awareness Day
Brain Awareness Day
Brain Awareness Day

At the University of Illinois Neuroscience Program’s 10th annual Brain Awareness Day, Project NEURON developed and presented "Do you see what I see?", a series of experiments, activities, and games to demonstrate neuroscience concepts about visual perception enjoyed by children and adults alike.

Throughout the day, children confidently sorted M&Ms by color, only to be stumped when a new element was added to the task: red light. This demonstrates that our perception is influenced by our environment. Children also sorted ambiguous color chips into different categories of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors to demonstrate individual variation in the detection and definition of colors. Is it purple or blue? Red or brown? Participants were surprised when their results disagreed with those of others or with formal color names.

In addition to these activities, a "Guppy Game" using playing cards and rolls of dice to determine who survives and mates, helped tie together research findings on the impact of the environment and individual variation on color preference. The series of color perception experiments is based on the research of Dr. Becky Fuller, Assistant Professor of Animal Biology. Fuller’s research examines developmental and evolutional constraints on color preference in fish. At Brain Awareness Day, children and adults were able to see how guppy color preference can influence complex behavior-- even the ability to survive. So asking the simple question, "Do you see what I see?" gives us information about our experiences, our behaviors, and our brains.

Project NEURON (Novel Education for Understanding Research On Neuroscience) operates under the guidance of principal investigator Dr. Barbara Hug, Clinical Assistant Professor in the department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education. Project co-operators are Donna Korol, Associate Professor of Psychology and George Reese, Director of MSTE. This outreach activity was made possible by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) grant from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Project NEURON brings together University of Illinois Neuroscience graduate students, College of Education graduate students and local teachers to develop a range of curriculum materials linking neuroscience with the K-12 science standards.